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Though many do dismiss this album when compared to later Bathory albums (and that is understandable) I think that this is often a little misguided, as though you can hear some Motorhead moments on here, Bathory, unlike Venom, created metal that feels evil and above all feels black from beginning to end.
Opening with the ominous bells (Big Ben slowed down in fact) with a number of other sound effects, one is drawn into a dark world of shadows and flickering candles, I visualize a sorcerer working his dark magick as a storm brews around him. This Luciferian power that seemed to possess Bathory is quite strong even here on the intro (which is though a little long). When three minutes later Hades starts we are put into dark atmospheric black metal, Quorthon's vocals are just as hateful and grim as ever, even from this early date he sounds like a demon from hell. Now of course this song is more old school and almost punky then most, but it still works. Unlike Darkthrone who has become more punky but without the malefic spirit (i.e. become more like Venom then Bathory) Bathory's style on here is very evil and the spirit is manevelent to normal human boundaries. And yes even in this song we given a slightly epic breakdown, which makes one think of what Bathory would end up with.
Every song on here is a classic, some more then others of course, but each one is excellent. One thing though many think Bathory was ripping off Venom, this is due to the similar song-titles, and similar sound, but, even though Venom came first, Quorthon was not originally into the metal scene and was not even aware of Venom until after the release of this album for people kept comparing Bathory to Venom. I believe this is true, because many other bands (like Slayer, Sodom, etc.) would often use similar song titles, and the general feeling of Motorhead and Exploited meeting Black Sabbath was going around everywhere at this time, and given that, even though Quorthon states he was more influenced by Oi! punk at this time then metal (and I think punk musicians did the drums and bass) what he ended up creating was something beyond most metal and all punk, something inspired by a power much more demonic and evocative.
The production does suffer, but it is actually better then the one on The Return.. as it is clearer. However all Bathory has great use of production for atmosphere, and this is no different, even if it wasn't on purpose the sound creates a dark, dank ancient atmosphere, and the lyrics having the sorcerous feeling only highten this. Which by the way was one thing Bathory always had over Venom and many other metal bands, the lyrics really do as Quorthon said, they paint pictures with words, creating dark visions of war, necromantic charms, sacrifices upon pagan altars to satan, etc. It really is quite powerful, and there is a reason why black metal fans, no matter if pagan or satanic or nihilistic will almost always cite early Bathory as being one of the best, that is because it is, and it still holds up, none of this has aged, it still has the same necromantic power it always has had.
So in closing, if you like black metal and have not heard this or the other old Bathory albums then you cannot really consider yourself a real black metal fan. Bathory is the beginning of everything and you must listen to these albums. This one is in particular as important as any of the others, for it helped to create the type of sound and feeling bands like Darkthrone and Countess would go for. Ancient, warlike, spectral, demonic black metal, that even if it has some Motorhead moments never loses the evil atmosphere.